Our recent update outlined the Government's proposals to introduce two weeks paid parental leave from November 2019 (via its Parental Leave and Benefit Bill 2019).

Last week Ireland took another step forward in enhancing parental leave entitlements through the Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill 2017 (the Bill).

What's new?

The Bill, along with some technical amendments, was passed by the Seanad on 8 May 2019. Subject to final approval by the Dáil, it will be signed and enacted by the President during the Summer.

Significantly, the two key changes to parental leave entitlements proposed by the initial Bill remain intact:

  • increasing the parental leave entitlement from the current 18 weeks' duration to 26 weeks; and
  • increasing the eligible age of the child from eight to 12

From a practical perspective, the additional eight weeks' parental leave will be implemented in two stages:

  • an additional four weeks' parental leave from September 2019
  • followed by a second set of four weeks' parental leave from September 2020.

The phased introduction of the enhanced leave seeks to address criticisms of the Bill amid concerns regarding its potential impact on employers.

Another technical amendment clarifies that employees who have already used some or all of the current 18 week parental leave entitlement can now avail of the additional eight weeks (in line with the phased introduction above). This is provided that their child has not exceeded 12 years of age. Minister Stanton noted that this amendment reflects the "Government's desire to support parents wishing to take their existing and new leave entitlements by increasing the upper age limit".

The enhancements proposed by the Bill will impact employers, not only in terms of facilitating greater periods of unpaid parental leave, but from a recording-keeping perspective. Employers will be required to keep a record of parental leave taken by their employees for a period of 12 years – or until the child for whom the leave is taken reaches the age of 12, whichever comes sooner.